Tis the season to be wary! Germs, bugs and illnesses can create havoc in the workplace during the colder, wetter months of winter - if they’re not kept in check.
Did you know that the average Australian adult gets 2-4 colds each year? The average for children is 5-10. There are about 200 different cold viruses and there is no vaccine. Typical symptoms include coughing, fever, sore throat, sneezing, blocked or runny nose and general congestion.
Influenza, which is caused by a different virus, affects your nose, throat, and sometimes your lungs. Symptoms are usually more severe and last longer than cold symptoms, and can include sore throat, fever and muscle aches. Annual vaccination is the most effective protection against the flu.
How to Help Prevent the Spread of Germs in the Workplace
No one likes being too sick to go to work. Despite being unwell, many of us tend to soldier on, convincing ourselves that it’s better to make an appearance instead of not turning up at all. Cold and flu season affects us all and there are things we can do to look after ourselves, and help prevent the spread of germs in the process.
Work from Home
Many workplaces are flexible when it comes to working from home. If you haven’t tested the waters yet, why not ask if it’s an option?
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for you, as well as your colleagues if you have symptoms that easily spread germs (like sneezing or coughing). Often we can still work to some capacity with these symptoms, so isolating yourself is a smart choice.
Continuing to work at home is okay when you have a mild cold, but it is not always feasible if you have a more severe illness. If you are experiencing the flu, with symptoms such as lethargy, fevers, headaches, and body aches, get some rest and allow your body to rehydrate and recover. Avoid anything more taxing until you feel physically and mentally better.
If working from home isn’t an option, and you’re still well enough to go to work, then the following tips will help you to stay healthy this winter.
Keep Tissues Close By
The quickest way for germs to spread is via droplets of saliva from sneezes, coughing or even just talking.
Sneezing or coughing into a tissue can minimise the presence of airborne droplets and therefore help to reduce the spread of germs. When you’re finished, make sure you discard the tissue (and dispose of those pesky germs) responsibly.
Wash Your Coffee Mug and Water Bottle Well
Before you use your coffee cup or refill your water bottle, rinse them in hot soapy water. If there are germs lurking on them this will get rid of them.
Disinfect Work Areas
Don’t rely on the after-hours office cleaners to wipe your desk thoroughly.
In cold and flu season keep disinfectant wipes handy and wipe down your telephone, keyboard and desk space every morning.
Be Vigilant with Personal Hygiene
Wash your hands frequently or use a hand sanitiser to kill any germs and stop them from being transferred to your mouth and making you sick.
Be Mindful of Co-Workers
If you have cold or flu symptoms then try to limit your contact with colleagues. Simple things like avoiding handshakes with a brief explanation or rescheduling non-urgent meetings can help limit the spread of germs.
If you’re feeling unwell, avoid communal areas like lunch rooms. Think about what you’re touching that might leave germs somewhere - like chewing on the end of a pen which someone else might then pick up.
Be Mindful of Yourself
When you’re unwell your natural response rate, concentration and productivity levels all decrease.
Cold & Flu medications can also slow you down increasing the potential for avoidable accidents. Pay close attention to the Directions of Use and/or Consumer Medicines Information leaflet that accompanies any medications you take, and ensure you always follow the guidelines for safe use.
If your body is fighting off illness then give it some sustenance. Drink lots of water and keep your intake of fruits and vegetables high. Now is not the time to be grabbing junk food and sweet treats.
Keep a water bottle at your desk so you’re not entering the kitchen or going to the water cooler frequently. Remember to wash and rinse it before each refill.
Follow your company’s procedure on what to do when you’re sick. No amount of responsibility and obligation is more important that the health of you and those around you.